Refining Our Vocabulary

Throughout the day, we all make conscious decisions as to how to appear more confident and professional within the workplace. We carefully choose what we’re going to wear; we make sure to appear polished when we walk through those doors at the beginning of the day. However, there is one area of our professional lives that can often end up on autopilot, and the mistakes that creep in discount our confidence and credibility: our words.

Whether it’s in an email, a presentation, or simply conversing with coworkers, there are phrases we use habitually that need to be cut from our vocabulary.


This phrase often prefaces our ideas when we start feeling nervous or aren’t feeling absolutely confident in what we’re about to pitch. We do this as a way to lower expectations. Before we’ve even unveiled our idea, we’ve framed it with negativity. The first thing anyone knows about our idea is that we aren’t even confident in it. If that’s the case, why would anyone else take you seriously?


This is another phrase that usually stems from nerves. We finish what we’re saying and don’t feel confident in our presentation. Oftentimes we panic when someone doesn’t immediately respond. In the midst of our panic we say, “does that make sense?” to illicit a response and ask for assurance. By using this phrase, you’ve suggested what you’ve just said may, in fact, not make sense. Learn to feel confident in presenting your case and pausing for feedback.


So many of these phrases seem to come from our own insecurity in our ideas or nervousness surrounding others’ opinions. “I feel like” is yet another way we preface something we’re not confident in saying. We use it as a cushion for rejection, yet it sets up the framework for someone to discount what you’re saying before you say it.


According to Sheryl Sanberg, “Women attribute their success to working hard, luck, and help from other people. Men will attribute that—whatever success they have, that same success—to their own core skills.” We’ve always been taught modesty and humility, but somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten how to truly take ownership of our successes and strengths. We feel awkward when complimented or recognized and find a way to deflect by attributing it to someone else. We need to learn how to acknowledge our own strengths without attributing it to something like luck.

As professional women, our battle to feel and portray confidence is often an everyday struggle. People say if you look confident, you feel confident. The same is true with our words. If we speak and write confidently, we’ll feel confident and portray confidence to those around us. Success is often in the details. When speaking and writing, let’s pay attention to these important details.